Growing up I was always told, “Be who you want to be,” and “You can do anything if you set your mind to it.” I’m an only child so my parents really encouraged my education. I worked my butt off. Late nights of studying. Missed countless family events. 8 years of schooling. 3 years of training. It’s been a long yet rewarding journey. Once I graduated with my degree, I was so excited. I’m a doctor. Awesome. I worked towards my goal so now I needed to hone in on my skills. This is when my training began and this is where I was first dealt with ageism. During my residency (doctor training after you are already a doctor by degree), I would excitedly walk into a room at the hospital where I was training and present to see a patient. I would get greeted by, “That’s nice honey, where’s my doctor at?”
“Sir, I am the doctor.”
“That’s funny sweetie. I know you’re my nurse. You look like you just finished high school.”
At first, I would take it as a compliment. I am young. I finished college in three years. I chalked it all up to good genes. Trying to brush off the comments. That did not last long. My final year of training, the comments had been enough.
“Oh you’re not treating me. I have shoes older than you.”
“Ma’am, I have performed this procedure a countless number of times. I appreciate how young I look, but my skills speak for themselves.”
“Well, sorry sweetie. I need my doctors to be old men who’ve done this thousands of times.”
Now the comments were infuriating. I worked so hard to learn what I do. How is it I am continuously brushed off because of my age? I get it. They want someone experienced, but come on, skill is skill.
Be Your Own Boss
Once officially done with my surgical training (now 3 years into being a doctor), my husband and I decided to create our own business. We both really wanted to be our own bosses. We worked this hard. We figured why would we make someone else money with our skills. So here we went, diving head first. I kept thinking this would be so great. My own boss. Set my own rules. It would be perfect. No one could brush me off. We were a start up so when we opened our doors we had one employee. No medical assistant so when a patient would be put in a room, I would walk in, greet them, hear what was going on. I was met often with, “ Well when the doctor comes in, I’ll explain to her better.” Here we go again.
“You look too young. Can I speak to whomever is in charge? I want to get the older doctor.”
“Sir. I am the owner and the doctor. My husband is the other physician in the office and he is close to my age.”
Negativity is Empowering if You Make It
Over the years, the comments have still occurred. I finally decided that to me, my skill as an owner, boss and surgeon were my own. I didn’t need to rationalize my age. My craft speaks for itself. My techniques are newer and faster than some of my “older colleagues.” I just take personal pride in it. I do not feel the need to justify my age.
Encourage Other Boss Ladies
I have, in return, encouraged many young women to start their own businesses, medicine related or not. I occasionally have spoken to high school students, as an alumnae speaker to my sorority, and alumnae to my medical school about the wonders of being your own boss. It is absolutely hard work. There are some days I just want to stay in bed and avoid being the boss; however, every day I am grateful. I am blessed. I did this and no one can take it away because “I’m young.” The wrinkles are coming on so I guess this won’t be a problem for long. Hahahaha, I better buy some anti-aging cream so that it does.